We’re Moving!

IMAmoments

To all of our dedicated readers and IMA® members:

Beginning on August 18, the Moments that Matter blog will be moving to SFmagazine.com, the website of IMA’s flagship publication, Strategic Finance. Appearing under the new name, IMA Moments, the blog will now live side by side with our other great IMA blogs, SF TechNotes and IMA Pulse.

The mission of the blog will remain the same—to provide a forum for IMA’s thought leaders to share their own ideas, stories, and experiences on the topics of careers, leadership, and certification. IMA Moments will remain a valuable resource for management accountants, business professionals, and students.

SFAlert_logoAlong with this transition comes a benefit: Each IMA Moments post will be announced via an SF Alert, our free e-mail updates that inform readers when new blog postings and magazine articles are published online. If you aren’t an IMA member or don’t already subscribe to SF Alerts, you can sign up to receive these free alerts at SFmagazine.com.

Thank you for following IMA’s Moments that Matter blog for the past three years. We look forward to hearing from you at our new home.

—IMA’s Top Thought Leaders

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5 Essential Business Skills Needed in Accounting

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It’s true that management accountants need the know-how to balance a budget, to complete a month-end report, and many other financial skills of managing a business. But other skills are equally important for success in our careers.

Mastering these 5 business skills will help you grow professionally and advance your career as a management accountant.

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  1. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Open communication and collaborating with your team are keys to success. Writing skills are necessary for clear and coherent reports. A very wise business leader once told me that he knew he didn’t really understand something until he could explain it succinctly, in writing, to someone else. Working on presentations and collaborating on special projects with employees outside of your department will help you cultivate this skill set.

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  1. Organization

Managing your workload isn’t easy when piles of papers have accumulated on your desk for the past three months. Organized employees have the most streamlined processes because they know where to find what they’re looking for, whether it be paper or digital. Organize your digital filing system in a clear and consistent manner; make sure your files are properly backed up, and important schedules and documents are available to your colleagues in your absence.

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  1. Leadership

Leadership skills are important for management accountants at every level of an organization. Taking charge of your work and your team will demonstrate your promotability. A leader emerges when the group is presented with a challenge, and one person demonstrates the commitment and competence to make sure the team delivers.

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  1. Time Management

Deadlines are an important part of our jobs as management accountants. We have regulatory filing deadlines and ever-increasing pressure for a rapid monthly close. Managing your time well reduces the stress of the deadline and allows you to prioritize your work. Streamlining the recurring work and completing it earlier in the month gives you more time to focus on new projects and innovations.

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  1. Use of Technology

In the age of digital offices and video conferencing, we need to be one step ahead of the cyberfraudsters. This means you’re continuously scanning the landscape for improved processes and accounting software and leading (or co-leading with the IT department) its implementation.

Accountants as Business Partners

Professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential are in the perfect position to be leaders in their organization. They have the balance of accounting and business skills needed to become trusted business partners. You can find learning resources, including webinars, online courses, and educational articles, at IMA’s website: www.imanet.org/learning-center/learning-center-overview.

Written by Doreen Remmen

 


PLEASE NOTE: In the spirit of collaboration, the Moments that Matter blog will be migrating to the Strategic Finance website later in August under a new name: “IMA Moments.” We are very excited for this collaboration. I would like to thank all of our loyal readers for following our blog for the past three years, and I’m looking forward to your continued readership.

 


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FIERCE Competition in Nonprofits: It Isn’t a Bad Thing

Competition

IMA commits to being a FIERCE competitor because we believe doing so leads to more innovation and “sharpness” in serving mission to enrich careers, organizations, and the public interest. In many ways, for-profit entities share the same goals and objectives as nonprofit organizations and vice versa. For example, a nonprofit’s mission to guide and vision to inspire can be applied in for-profit entities; and intense focus on value, resource allocation, performance metrics, competitive differentiators, and many more for-profit factors can be applied in nonprofits. Ultimately, nonprofits need to operate like “real” businesses.

Similarly, nonprofits and for-profits share in the fierce competition environment, since fierce competition helps grow and sustain a nonprofit business. This is how I define fierce competition and it’s role and value in nonprofit organizations:

 

Focused on mission

A nonprofit must be laser-focused on its mission and societal purpose. Keeping your members, and their interests, top-of-mind will help you create products and services tailored to their needs. This will build your organization’s professional brand and create loyal, long-time members. There’s nothing wrong with embracing a competitive edge and developing innovative and differentiated products.

 

Innovative

CompetitionFierce competition serves to benefit stakeholders with a relentless and unwavering emphasis on value and innovation. No one should drive in the rearview. In business, commoditization can be a kiss of death, while innovation and first-mover advantage can be business’s saviors on the path to sustainable growth and value.

 

Entrepreneurial

Similar to innovation, being entrepreneurial means that the leadership of the nonprofit should behave like owners of a business, with “skin in the game” to make decisions that are customer-centric and timely. Although silos exist to ensure functional expertise, they must also work seamlessly and collaboratively to serve mission and society.

 

Respectful

This is very tricky, but required (in my opinion), for a nonprofit fierce competitor. Having been a CFO in a large for-profit telecom in arguably the most hyper-competitive environment ever faced in business, I often was behind closed doors and emoted how badly I wished to crush the competition (ethically, of course). In a nonprofit environment, members and society benefit when you have this competitive edge, but you must always treat your competitors with respect because they’re usually also partners in advancing the profession for the public interest. Being fierce means having conviction of purpose but with trust, integrity, and respect top of mind. It’s all about protecting the brand.

 

Courageous

Another element of fierce competition is being courageous, which is appropriate in any business environment. Being courageous means tackling the tough problems and issues with resolve and conviction of purpose. Your stakeholders count on you to tackle problems head on and to not take the easy way out.

 

Empathetic

And last but not least, be fierce and empathetic. Business is an ecosystem of competitors, partners, customers, members, influencers, and shareholders—all human beings with a purpose. Be an active listener. Don’t settle for artificial harmony or, at the other extreme, personalizing situations. Allow people to weigh in before they buy in. Be caring. Embracing core values leads to enhanced bottom-line value.

 

Nonprofits as Fierce Competitors

I believe that competition in any environment incentivizes stronger, leaner, agile, and more innovative organizations. Just because nonprofit organizations emphasize mission over profit, doesn’t mean they can’t be fierce competitors. While nonprofits can’t earn a profit per se–“no money, no mission”—behaving like an ethical business only helps better serve members and society.

IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) is one of the fastest-growing accounting associations in the world with an unwavering and relentless focus on growing the CMA program, the world’s leading credential in management accounting; enhancing the member value proposition; engaging students and young professionals; and embracing technology to enable more capable organizations. In short, we commit to being FIERCE competitors.

 

Written by Jeff Thomson

 

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Career Advice: The Moment That Mattered for Us

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IMA’s top thought leaders are sharing the best career advice they’ve ever received, which helped shape them into the professionals they are today.

 

JeffACE20160619-_MTMspotJeff Thomson, CMA, CAE, is IMA’s president and CEO. Undoubtedly, he has received much career advice throughout the years, but what stuck with him the most pertained to becoming a business partner:

“To add value in your position, learn the business. This gives you the context to learn, grow, and influence. Simple as that! ‘The business’ includes your industry, how value flows, your customers, how decisions are made in your company, and what are the levers to being an influential business partner.”

 

Dennis Whitney, CMA, is IMA’s senior vice president of certifications, exams, and content integration. The advice he received early in his career helped him balance his workload:

“When I was in my late 20s, a supervisor/mentor told me to work hard, but have fun, and don’t worry about the things you can’t control. This advice helped me be both more productive and happier as I work toward focusing only on what matters most.”

 

Debbie Warner, CPLP, is IMA’s vice president of education and career services and was inspired by career advice about continuing education:

“Make learning a lifelong adventure. Not only is it fun to continually expand your horizon, but the knowledge you gain is something you will ‘own’ throughout your life and helps to determine your uniqueness.”

 

Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE, is IMA’s director of technical accounting activities. The best career advice she received was in the area of advocacy:

“Take control of your career, and become your strongest advocate. Carve out and identify your area of expertise, and develop a career path accordingly. That advice is why I think I was considered for my original position at IMA 10 years ago, as director of professional advocacy. As I continue to be an advocate for my career, I am also a strong advocate for IMA and love opportunities that allow me to talk about IMA’s membership benefits, including the CMA® [Certified Management Accountant] designation.”

 

Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, is IMA’s vice president of research and professor-in-residence. He was inspired at a young age to strive to reach his goals:

“One of my high school teachers wrote in my yearbook something to the effect that in order to succeed, you need both ‘smarts’ and perseverance; one of these alone was not sufficient.”

 

Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE, is IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO.

“The best career advice I received was the advice I gave myself: ‘Get certified!’”

 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? Did it help you grow personally and professionally? How else did it change you? Leave your comments below!

 

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Take the Guesswork Out of Creating a Development Plan

In my role at IMA©, I oversee the creation of management accounting educational products that help our members expand their professional knowledge and skills. These products include webinars, online self-development courses, and live events such as IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo and Leadership Academy workshops.

Before selecting educational products, it’s important to first take stock of your professional development needs for your current situation as well as your career aspirations, and then put together a plan. If you’re unsure of where to start, here are some ideas.

Take Stock in Your Professional Knowledge and Skills

Young businesswoman thinking and cloud of mind with quiestionsThe first step in creating a professional development plan is to assess your management accounting skills and knowledge. There are various ways to do this. You can ask your colleagues or manager for their perspective, consider feedback received during your performance reviews, talk with a mentor or coach, or do a self-assessment. After obtaining feedback and results, you can then determine which areas for growth you want to focus on when building your development plan.

Plan Your Development

Once you’ve benchmarked your skills and prioritized areas for improvement, you can start building a development plan that is customized to your particular needs. This involves considering the extent of what you need to learn, how much time you have to devote to expanding your skills, and what types of education you find most attractive. Remember to consider various options for development, including self-study online courses and webinars, relevant books and publications by thought leaders, blended learning solutions involving classes and online courseware, live events such as conferences or specific training sessions, networking with others, and on-the-job activities.

After researching the various learning opportunities, select those which you feel best meet your needs and record them on your development plan. Also, determine the date you want to start each of your selections as well as a completion date.

Commit to Your Plan

A critical next step is to “work” your development plan by starting and completing the activities you’ve identified to close your skill gaps. As you progress with your activities, it will also be important to update your development plan with actual results. This will keep you motivated to continue on your professional development path. Then, at certain intervals (such as quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly), you should take stock regarding the broader progress made against areas for improvement to ensure you are successfully closing your skills gap. If diligent about your efforts, you will be proud to see your progress.

Continue Your Professional Development Progress

careerdriverIMA’s CareerDriver ™ career planning tool is designed to help members assess their management accounting competencies and create personalized development plans. Whether you are looking to transition into a new role, strengthen your skills, or discover new professional possibilities, Career Driver has the right personalized approach for you.

Gaining new knowledge and skills is a lifelong adventure as well as critical to professional success in your current and future positions. The personal assessment and development plan process is a continuous discipline in which you will reap many benefits. Enjoy this important professional journey!

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

 

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Accountants as Salespeople: 5 Tips for Acing the Interview

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As IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO, I interview candidates for many positions in our organization, including our open accounting/finance positions. Over the years, I’ve realized that the most successful candidates for any job approach the interview the way a strong salesperson handles an important opportunity.

Like a salesperson landing the deal of a lifetime, you will have to “pitch” the technical skills on your résumé—your credentials, expertise with software, and ability to produce results—during an interview for an accounting position. Here are some practical tips that can give you a competitive edge.

 

1. Be polite to the receptionist.

He or she is the first of many “gatekeepers” you’ll meet. You’ll probably need to show the receptionist or security personnel your ID—so don’t leave your wallet in the car! Making a good impression on the receptionist won’t guarantee you a position with the firm, but if the receptionist doesn’t like you, others will hear about it, and your chances will be diminished.

 

2. Be on time for the interview.

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Effective salespeople are never late to an important meeting. In fact, you should be a half hour early, and be gracious. The HR representative will insist that you fill out an application before anyone talks to you. Most companies use a form that asks for information not on your résumé, including salary history and reasons for leaving your previous positions.

Sometimes applicants with strong résumés balk at the application form—they want to go straight to the meeting with the executive team. This raises red flags; the last thing a firm wants is to hire a prima donna at any level.

 

3. Be accurate, thorough, and neat with the application form.

The form is a window into how well-organized you are and how neatly and accurately you’ll handle the reporting responsibilities of the Finance team. A recruiter once told me that whenever he was interviewing for controller positions he would walk the candidate to his or her car and take a peak inside. If the car were full of piles of junk, he wouldn’t present the candidate. Every salesperson knows that neatness counts. This is particularly true if you’re trying to land a job in accounting.

 

4. Prepare for the interview.

interviewGreat salespeople invest in preparation for their meetings. The most important question I ask applicants is, “What would you like to know about our organization?” This is an invitation to engage in a dialogue and to demonstrate the work the candidate has done to prepare for the interview.

The people with the best questions are those who have researched the history of IMA, the CMA program, our global membership network, and our products and services. A thoughtful compliment about our website goes a long way. People who have clearly spent time preparing for the interview, looking at the website, and thinking about questions they’d like to ask have the curiosity and drive we want on our team.

 

5. Ease awkward situations to establish rapport.

The best salespeople are as good at listening as they are at speaking. Once you’ve made it to the interview, you may realize that the hiring manager lacks interviewing skills. Don’t be judgmental; have compassion. He or she may be new to the role or may experience so little turnover on the team that interviewing opportunities are rare.

Also, many hiring managers find the interviewing process very stressful. If there are awkward pauses or if the interviewer runs out of questions for you, here is another salesperson’s tip: people love to talk about themselves. Ask questions about the interviewer’s own career path. Try to find out what motivates him or her and what challenges are trying to be solved. The goal is to establish rapport. Then you can turn back the conversation to the ways you can solve the interviewer’s challenges.

 

Sealing the Deal

Hiring managers are inundated with applications every time they post a job opening. If you are fortunate enough to make it through the initial screening process to get an interview, these 5 tips will increase your chances of landing the job. Only after incorporating these tips can you effectively “pitch” your product and close the deal by showing how your unique skills and abilities are the perfect fit.

 

Written by Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE

 

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Cyberhygiene in Small Businesses: What You Need to Know

Technology helps push business forward. Yet, at the same time, it makes us—and our companies—vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breeches.

Many small business owners don’t think they’re targets for cyberfraud because of their size. On the contrary, hackers see small businesses as easy targets because they lack the resources, personnel, and/or budget to ensure proper safeguards.

And, because hackers go where the most valuable information is (i.e., financial and customer data), accounting and finance professionals are the most vulnerable to these threats. Therefore, it’s essential for those working in small businesses to fully understand cyberhygiene.

Medic Robot. Laptop repair concept.

What Is Cyberhygiene?

Cyberhyiene means ensuring best practices are in place to properly safeguard your most valuable data. Implementing software that can track traffic, has antivirus capability, and/or can report on machine operations; hiring internal or external IT professionals trained in security basics to constantly survey the cybercrime landscape; and updating your cybercrime tactics can help protect your company.

Hackers use sophisticated tools to launch their attacks and prey on busy professionals who might not second-guess what they’re clicking on. Phishing scams that trick people into clicking a link containing malware and ransomware attacks that hold hostage company information after clicking an infected link are two popular cyberattack schemes.

Who Is Affected?

Small businesses must change their mind-set from “we’re too small to be noticed” to “is a cyberattack already happening to us?” Reputation damage, loss of customer trust, and the financial impact of a cyberattack are devastating for small businesses.

When a data breach occurs, the company’s reputation is damaged and its customers become less trusting. It’s the company’s responsibility to protect customer data. Therefore, accounting and finance professionals should take the lead in creating and implementing a risk-management strategy, such as the COSO Internal Control—Integrated Framework.

How Can Cyberattacks Be Prevented?

The combination of the amount of data and changes in how we collect, store, share, and access it makes us vulnerable. Social media is an increasingly important communications tool for many small businesses; however, they should be cautious as to what information they share and who has access to the accounts. Companies should establish an employee policy about social media etiquette to protect their data and brand.

Password Box in Internet Browser

Another cyberhygiene best practice at the employee-level is to regularly change passwords and to create a password using a combination of 10 characters that represent a phrase or set of items that you can relate to but have nothing to do with your personal or business life. For instance, you can use the first four digits of a previous zip code in combination with street names from that zip code in an order that you will remember.

Staying Ahead of the Game

Hackers have been scamming people for years, but as technology continues to evolve, so will hackers’ schemes. To stay one step ahead, continuously monitor the cyberthreat landscape, stay up-to-date on current trends in security, and close any knowledge gaps by taking advantage of education. Make yourself familiar with the various tools that monitor the landscape.

IMA and its Technology Solutions and Practices Committee work hard to bring education about cybersecurity to our members. In July, IMA will be launching a new webinar series called “Tech Talk Mondays,” which will feature technology professionals who ensure cyberhyiene in their companies. Stay tuned for more details.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills

 

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